The BellTel Lofts in Downtown Brooklyn
The 27-story brick building at 365 Bridge Street, home to the BellTel Lofts Condominium, was built in 1929 as the Long Island headquarters of the New York Telephone Company. Back then, Brooklyn had about 446,000 telephones, a number that was growing at an astronomical rate of +28,000 per year. The building, at Bridge and Willoughby Streets, straddles what is now Metro Tech near Flatbush Ave., and was considered Brooklyn’s first skyscraper.
An Art Deco masterpiece, the building was designed by Ralph Walker, voted architect of the century by the American Institute of Architects in 1957 for his contribution to modern design. As the building rose in height, the tiered design gave the illusion that the towers grew in the air. It cost over $5.5 million to build – a massive sum in 1929. The building was voted a landmark in 2004, and today, it’s home to the BellTel Lofts Condominium.
The condominium’s completion in 2008 is a definitive example of “adaptive reuse,” an architectural term that refers to the re-design of historic structures to fit modern needs after a building’s initial purpose has become outdated. As a historic conversion, many have claimed it deserves national recognition. The developer – Clipper Equities – was highly committed to historic preservation. The architects he hired to oversee the restoration - New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) – were also behind the restoration of Grand Central Terminal and notable residential projects like the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg. BBB is renowned for their work in the adaptive reuse category. 365 Bridge Street is now home to 250 apartments with over 100 different floor plans.
Downtown Brooklyn has seen huge change over the past 11 years since the BellTel Lofts completion. All major subway lines are within blocks of the building. Supermarkets, hotels and restaurants came slowly but today the area has emerged as a major cultural, shopping and foodie destination. Countless other condominiums have risen nearby. BBB’s director said in a 2011 interview: “It has been great thrill… I never thought I’d live to see the day people in huge quantities lived in downtown Brooklyn. There is new street life. Investment, which wasn’t there for decades, is prevalent. The renaissance is really about the entire area.”